Can New Jersey Bars Be Held Responsible for Drunk Driving?

Picture of keys next to drinking glasses

October 1, 2011, a 69-year-old man was driving with his 61-year-old girlfriend down Clifton Street in Westfield. They approached the intersection at Tice Place, but never made it through the crossing. That’s because another vehicle, driven by a suspected drunk driver, slammed into their car. The 69-year-old did not survive, but his passenger lived after sustaining several broken bones and a severe head injury. Now the woman is trying to seek justice, and the bar that sold drinks to the other driver might be on the hook.

Why Drunk Driving in New Jersey Can Get Bars in Trouble Too

Here in New Jersey, the Dram Shop Act says that establishments that serve alcohol are not allowed to serve drinks to patrons who are already visibly drunk. Venues that violate these laws are opened up to civil action by the victims of drunk drivers who drank in excess at these businesses. In the October 2011 case mentioned above, just such consequences were faced by a bar in Cranford.

According to the lawsuit filed by the 61-year-old passenger, the 32-year-old alleged drunk driver had been to two drinking establishments that night. At both establishments, the driver allegedly drank several high-alcohol content beers, but by the time he had arrived at the second bar, he was already showing signs of visible intoxication.

A jury in Middlesex county agreed with the woman’s claims, assigning 60 percent fault to the drunk driver and 40 percent fault to the drinking establishment. The bar was required to pay $1.4 million to the woman.

This case highlights why it is important to contact an attorney after a major crash like this. Not many people know about New Jersey’s Dram Shop Act, but an experienced attorney should know about this law and many others that can help victims recover from an incident. Keep following our blog here at the Law Offices of Dennis E. Block to learn more about the legal options available to crash victims.